Monday, November 15, 2010

Tina Fey is Sarah Palin

In September of 2008, Saturday Night Live included a skit starring Tina Fey as Republican Vice Presidential hopeful Sarah Palin in the season premiere. Tina Fey’s parody of Palin was so effective that SNL saw its best ratings in 14 years (Gough). For Tina Fey, it is more than the script or her appearance, but her perfected talent and precise presentation that makes her performances effective and entertaining.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

An Uncertain Role: Ann Coulter in the Media

Lauren Thomas

The celebrity pot-stirrer, conservative queen of controversy Ann Coulter is one of today’s most popular but confusing devil’s advocates: Although her comments are usually received as offensive or simply polemic, Coulter has nevertheless convinced many viewers around the world that her extreme opinions represent those prevalent within the Republican Party. In her essay “My Beef with Ann Coulter,” Meghan McCain, daughter of the latest Republican presidential candidate, diagnoses the damage Coulter has inflicted on a party starved of young supporters and illustrates a character whose true role in the media remains chaotically unclear.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Paris Hilton, the Brand

Paris Hilton rose through the ranks of Hollywood with seeming ease, being the first celebrity to create and mold her status without any mainstream talents. Miss. Hilton’s unconventional celebutante status was fashioned by manipulating the degraded public image in which the media casted her – an American icon for scandal. For most celebrities, such as Lindsay Lohan, Tiger Woods, or Britney Spears, actions similar to Paris’ brought about their downfall, ruining their public image, but more importantly, hindering their careers. These actions, however, only stoked the flames of society’s craving for Paris. Paris’ unorthodox claim to fame embodies everything the public typically loves to hate; however, through exploiting how the media portrays her highly broadcasted lifestyle and understanding the public’s desires, she has made pure gold. Paris crafted a career out of being a public icon – a brand.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Bill Maher: A Serious(ly Funny) Man

Celebrities have become increasingly vocal in contemporary society and, as such, their opinions are ringing stronger than ever through the public conscience. Political stance often becomes a defining part of an otherwise apolitical figure’s image: in recent history we’ve seen Oprah and George Clooney, to name just two, come out and staunchly support Barack Obama. Some, such as Al Franken, even go on to pursue political careers of their own. In this light, it’s certainly not unordinary that outspoken comedian and libertarian Bill Maher commands some attention on political matters; however, in an age saturated by opinions, it is important that we carefully consider both who we listen to and why we even listen to them to begin with. By communicating with the public through his standup acts, talk show appearances, and his program Real Time, Bill Maher establishes his ethos as a persuasive political advocate through a uniquely effective blend of comedy and rhetoric.

Survivorman: The Man For Survival

Survivorman, the bug eating, trap setting, fire starting, urine drinking survival expert has provided entertainment and education for Discovery Channel viewers since his introduction to the cable lineup. The mysterious “Survivorman” referred to is none other than Les Stroud, a survival expert that provides watchers the entertainment of being immersed in real survival situations. He has travelled to the Rockies, Australia, and many places between to show viewers how to survive in unforgiving environments. Some think he is a nut, some think he is strong-willed, but most will agree that he is an education provider to some extent. This status as educator brings Les’ ethos into question, as he carries the burden of fairly and correctly informing the public.

Kid Cudi: Man On The Moon; Kid Cudi at the GQ Gentlemen's Ball (2009)

Everything about Kid Cudi- from the way he dresses in tight fitting clothing, to the name he chose for his debut album, Man on the Moon, to the rhythm of his House infused beats- gives off the impression that he is an individual of the first order. The artist has built his fame around his image as an outcast, as he raps and sings mostly about his tribulations in the alienating and apathetic world in which he lives, which offers a fresh perspective on the contemporary Hip-hop horizon. Yet, after begetting two Billboard “Hot 100” chart-topping hits and collaborating with the likes of Jay-Z, Lil’ Wayne, and Kanye, Kid Cudi has established himself as a respected contemporary musical force, beloved by millions worldwide (Billboard). Subsequently, quite a large social clique has accepted him: fans of mainstream music.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

A Distasteful Shot of Tequila

A Distasteful Shot of Tequila

Who is Tila Nguyen? She is rarely seen fully clothed, yet she is not a porn star. She claims talents in singing and rapping, yet she refuses to sign with a label (Tequila, TilasHotSpot). She participates in the wild nightlife of Hollywood, yet she is not a socialite. Although the category of fame in which Tila belongs is questionable, there is no doubt that she is one of the most controversial figures in the public. Her stage name, “Tila Tequila”, is a paradox in itself, as she claims on her MySpace webpage that she is allergic to alcohol and received the nickname from her friends as a joke. Perhaps the only person to have ever used the words “I love you” and “I will f*** you up” (lyrics to a song titled “I Love U” on her MySpace page) in the same song, she is notorious for her two conflicting personas of “baddest bitch on the block”(as she proclaims on her MySpace page) and “sweet, loving girl, who just likes to help people” (written under her “About Me” on her Facebook page).

naughty vs. nice

Image Credit: Screenshot from Tila Tequila's MySpace

Tila Tequila: Naughty or Nice?

Following the recent death of her fiancé Casey Johnson, Tila Tequila’s inconsistent actions and statements have invited further criticism to her ostentatious and artificial character. Despite her inconsistent and insincere ethos, her rise to fame from the Internet world represents her status as a premiere “new media star.” As she paved her own way to fame, she is a prime example of the new and unconventional way to gain stardom- without leaving your desktop computer. Although she has lucratively advanced her career more successfully compared to other new media stars, her methods of gaining that success demonstrates unfavorable and poor ethos.

tila mysapce

Image Credit: Screenshot from Tila Tequila's MySpace

Tila’s fame rose from her MySpace page, which now consists of 3.8 million friends and over 200 million views. Before she created her persona “Tila Tequila,” she was simply a high-school dropout in Houston, Texas, desperately searching for a way to live her dream of stardom (according to a blog entry on her MySpace). In the Internet world, she became Tila Tequila: the outspoken, bisexual feminist. Her accessible and feisty character along with her risqué pictures appealed to young Internet users around the world, and she developed an “intimate” relationship with her fans (intimate, compared to other celebrities who use publicists to manage their websites). So naturally, she confided in her world of cyber fans after her personal life was suddenly struck with tragedy. Casey Johnson, who was best known as a socialite and the heiress to the billion-dollar corporation Johnson and Johnson, and Tila had known each other for a month before proclaiming their love for each other and getting engaged (Charlotte).

tila casey

Image Credit: Screenshot of Tila Tequila's "My Photos" album on her MySpace

Tila proclaims her love for Casey on her MySpace page

Just days after Casey passed away from drug and diabetic complications in December of 2009, Tila began gaining criticism for her outspoken thoughts on Twitter (Johnson and Johnson). Her “tweets”, which are brief postings on an individual’s Twitter website expressing his or her current thoughts, included rants about the feuds between her and the Johnson family, as well as outlandish accusations that only expressed bitterness towards some of Casey’s other socialite friends (Calinawan).With her constant tweets, one could only wonder why she was spending so much time publicly raving about her thoughts when she should be taking a break from the Internet world to privately mourn the death of her fiancé. Some may argue that she was simply keeping the internet world updated and did not want to leave her anxious fans in the dark during such a momentous time. As the tabloids circulated rumors about the internet star, it was appropriate that she personally confronted her fans instead of going into hiding like other celebrities do under stressful times. What most people deemed inappropriate was her attitude handling the situation, as she could have demonstrated a much more collected demeanor and shown more sensitivity towards Casey’s mourning family and friends.

In an article on written by Nicole Pecse, Pecse debates whether Tila’s actions are a result of her “out-of-control grief” or simply “just a cry for attention”. After accusations from celebrity blogger Perez Hilton that Tila was using Casey’s death for personal publicity, Tila continued to post emotional tweets, retaliating at Perez with derogatory and chiding remarks such as “Ur jus jealous nobody loves u” and “Everyone just forget about perezhilton he’s lonely and bored so decided to pick on me at a time when I an mourning my Fiance. Good Job Pig!” (Calinawan).

twitter war

Image Credit: Screenshots from The Daily Chow

The Twitter battle between Perez Hilton and Tila Tequila

From the view of her devoted fans, she could be speaking out of anger and confusion as she is facing a devastating time in her life, and her fans could therefore argue that nothing she says should be used as a direct reflection of her true character. Despite her unfortunate circumstances, one can only wonder how someone who claims to be in such a depressed state could have the time, energy, and concern to engage in belligerent fights and throw childish tantrums against another established new media celebrity such as Perez Hilton. If this was an attempt to gather sympathy from her fans, she only further degraded her image as someone who basks in her fame and grasps every moment to gain attention from the media. In a poll accompanying the article on that asks “what do you think of Tila Tequila’s online rants?,” 86 percent of the readers responded that “this is just a cry for more attention,” eight percent answered that “she is just finding a way of expressing her grief,” and six percent answered “I’m not sure.” Her three million fans could either be absent in these opinions, or they just might have finally seen her in a truer light.

online poll

Image Credit: Screenshot of a poll on

In a YouTube video entitled “Tila Tequila’s Bizarre Behavior Caught On Camera,” she further demonstrates her artificial and insincere ethos.

Video Credit: Tila Tequila's Bizarre Behavior Caught On Camera posted by username: hollywoodtv on YouTube

Continuing her public act of mourning, she peeks her head out of her front door to tell the reporters and cameramen that she was “grieving a little bit” and “not expecting anyone” before holding up a doormat that read “LEAVE” in large letters (Tila Tequila’s bizarre behavior). Although she initially attempts to act surprised by the visitors, she is clearly in full make-up, complete with fresh flowers in her hair and wearing a revealing shirt with a plunging neckline (no surprise there) that alluringly shouts “take a picture!” Without much coercion, she steps outside and immediately begins posing for pictures, displaying her infamous sexy-yet-innocent smile. Quickly catching herself, she murmurs a brief comment regarding Casey’s sheets, flashes a frown, then persists with her impromptu photo shoot. With no sign of mourning or sadness, she beams with the chance to talk about her future while inviting more snaps of the cameras, even pausing to pose for a “sweet shot,” as she clearly describes herself (Tila Tequila’s bizarre behavior). Her quick transition from being in an artificial state of grieving to having a suspiciously chipper façade shows her eagerness to publicize herself as an innocent victim to the frantic media.

tila bizzare

Image Credits: Screenshots from Tila Tequila's Bizarre Behavior Caught On Camera posted by username: hollywoodtv on YouTube and Tila Tequila's MySpace "My Photos" album

Again, one could argue that her inconsistent actions are a result of the trauma and sorrow she felt after the shock of losing a loved one, but there is a clear distinction between confusion and deliberate misportrayal. In an attempt to legitimize her ethos as genuinely caring about the death of her fiancé, she posted a tweet saying “Meeting with my family and my Fiance's Family” (Johnson and Johnson). A representative for the Johnson family quickly refuted this statement, saying that Casey's family and friends would rather deal with the Devil” (Johnson and Johnson). This further discredits her claimed sincerity, as she was caught in a direct lie to the public in hopes of painting a more favorable image of herself. As her actions support the accusations that she seeks personal attention from the media coverage following Casey’s death, Tila shows that her behaviors are purely driven by her hunger for the spotlight.

Although many may criticize Tila for her lack of talent (unless you consider the art of outspokenness or the skills of stripping as talents), her rise to fame is undeniably impressive. Emigrating from Vietnam with her family when she was in elementary school, she was not born into the world of fame nor was she magically handed a Hollywood career (Tequila, Miss Tila’s Bio). In an already competitive industry, she defied the normal means of becoming famous by using her creativity, her personality, and the Internet. A quote by Joshua Gamson in an article in The New York Times titled “She’s Famous (and So Can You)” states, “Because of new technologies, we get to see now what happens when people have the option of making up their own celebrity.” Tila did exactly that: she created her own image- from her feisty yet sugary personality to her distinction as a part of the high-class social scene. Tila’s rise as a new media star specifically allowed her to join whatever social class she wished. Her competence to choose her own social class even uncovers the question of how one is classified into a social class. Is social class naturally bestowed to us, or do we have the ability to define the section into which we classify ourselves? Paul Fussell attempts to define social class from different angles, saying that the people on the bottom “tend to believe that class is defined by the amount of money you have,” while “nearer the top, people perceive that taste, values, ideas, style, and behavior are indispensable criteria of class, regardless of money or occupation or education” (McQuade and McQuade 479). Casey Johnson’s status as a high class, multi-millionaire socialite was not only defined by her wealth, but by her notorious reputation as a party girl akin to Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie (who also initially rose to fame exclusively through their socialite statuses). Seeking the high social class associated with stardom, Tila cleverly partnered herself with someone at the top of the social class ladder- by definition of money, style, and behavior. “I FINALLY have found THE ONE! Yes, it's true....I AM OFICIALLY ENGAGED to Casy-Johnson heir of billionaire Francihae Johnson & Johnson!” (Tequila, Myspace). Despite her unforgivable spelling errors, her emphasis on Casey’s status as the heiress to a billion-dollar franchise demonstrates her classification as a high-class star through her affiliation to one. She may have had legitimate interest in Casey as a wife, but the truth remains that her engagement to the heiress allowed her to enter a division of social class that she did not have access to before. Fussell also writes that “there seems no place where hierarchical status-orderings aren’t discoverable” (McQuade and McQuade 482). This truth also applies to the Hollywood industry, as celebrities are constantly struggling to maintain their status through their talent, style, or reputation. In Tila’s case, she defines her own social class by the people she associates herself with, as well as maintaining her reputation as a flashy new media star. With nothing but a keyboard, access to the internet, and her imagination, Tila went from a low social status as an unknown immigrant from Vietnam to a high social class internet star with millions of avid followers. Although she has established some credibility for doing all of this on her own, her desperate acts in attempt to rise in social status further demonstrates her poor ethos.

As a celebrity in the music, movie, or in this case, internet industry, sex sells. Especially regarding females, there is something intriguing and exciting about showing more skin. Take, for example, Britney Spears, who was initially criticized for being too “sexy” by the media, yet has succeeded in becoming one of the most successful and iconic pop stars in history. But unlike Britney and many other celebrities who rely much on their sex symbol for success, sex is the only thing Tila sells. At eighteen years old, she formed her own website named “,” and charged people to become members in order to view her x-rated pictures (Tequila, Tila’s Hot Spot). A few years later, she became “Queen of the Internet,” according to her biography on her Tila’s Hot Spot blog, as she accumulated countless fans through her MySpace page (with help from her topless photos), became the center of the first bisexual reality love show called “A Shot at Love,” and began recording songs without the help of a record label. Even in attempts to demonstrate her vocal “talents,” her raunchy lyrics and even more vulgar music videos clearly show that, above all, her sex appeal is her priority means of maintaining her status as a new media star. Besides her sex appeal, her bisexuality is another intriguing component of Tila Tequila’s persona. In an article published in Asianweek titled “Tila Takes Credit for Gay Marriage” by Lisa Lee, Lee criticizes the incredulous statements Tila makes in claiming responsibility for the legalization of gay marriage in California. The article quotes Tila saying, “I definitely think (my show) has helped the movement.

a shot at love

Image Credit: TV Guide, courtesy of MTV

A Shot At Love with Tila Tequila on MTV

As far from a politician as a porn star is to a minister, Tila has no credibility to justify her claim that she took part in the gay movement. Her bisexual love show “A Shot At Love” did create less uneasiness in the gay community as a premiere celebrity openly embraced her unique sexuality, but neither the show nor Tila has history of being highly politically active in the gay campaign. Tila briefly lends her face and voice to a public service announcement by the NOH8 Campaign, using her identity as a bisexual to encourage LGBT equality and to show some concern for the rights of the gay community. Even so, her concern for her television show and constant publicity boosts seem to be of more importance, and she appears in no additional political protests. She claims to be such a strong voice for the gay community, yet her actions have clearly illustrated otherwise.


Image Credit: Screenshot from NOH8 Campaign PSA by username: NOH8Campaign on YouTube

Being an Internet star is a challenge that many fail to achieve, and establishing a career after gaining initial attention is an even more difficult feat. Changing with each click of a mouse, the new media demands originality and excitement- something that grabs peoples’ attention for more than a mere fifteen minutes. Looking strictly at her resume, Tila is a successful woman with an impressive story. Even with this shred of credibility that she has established for herself by maintaining her fame, her ethos is still less admirable than that of other new media stars. Take, for example, Justin Bieber: a fifteen-year-old boy with an incredible voice, who went from posting YouTube videos of himself singing in local talent shows to becoming a Billboard Top 20 artist in a matter of a few months (Adib). Then, there is Frank Warren, a small business-owner from Maryland who created a “community art project” through, which has been developed into numerous books and has been notably recognized on 20/20, CNN, and Fox News (Ewalt). Compare the sweet-voiced young boy and the man who changes lives with postcards to the girl who bounces her perky breasts along the streets of Hollywood singing “all my stripper friends,” all while claiming she is here to make the world a better place (Tequila, MySpace). She claims to be “sexy AND run an EMPIRE AND save the world AND adopt many children AND be super intelligent at the same time,” yet she has not displayed any attempts of the above unless one counts the “sexiness” of her nude pictures and considers her highly viewed MySpace as acts of saving the world (Tequila, Facebook). Her actions are unmistakably inconsistent with her words, creating a far from genuine ethos for herself.

On her Facebook page, Tila states, "I used to be Known as this chick named 'TILA TEQUILA' but today I am known as 'MISS TILA, THE MOGUL'." Below are images of "Tila Tequila" then, and "Miss Tila" now. Is there a difference?


Image Credit: Screenshots from Tila Tequila's MySpace "My Photos" album on MySpace and Tila Tequila's profile pictures on Facebook

The fact that she has transitioned from a new media celebrity into a real celebrity is not what creates her unsatisfactory ethos, but it is the methods she has used in order to reach her status that puts her into the category of artificial celebrity vying for any opportunity in the spotlight. Rather than using her talents (if she has any hidden under her silicone breasts and costume eyelashes), she has taken advantage of the public’s gossip addiction to accumulate a controversial, debatable, and simply intriguing image. This image, along with her recent actions regarding the death of Casey Johnson, has established an artificial and unfavorable ethos to Tila Tequila. So, after further evaluation into her true character, would anyone like a taste of the “real” Tila Tequila?

Works Cited

Adib, Desiree. "Pop Star Justin Bieber Is on the Brink of Superstardom." ABC

News. ABC News Internet Ventures, 14 Nov. 2009. Web. 9 Mar. 2010.


Calinawan, Anna Pamela. "Fame Update: Tila Tequila and Perez Hilton Twitter

Fight: Read it here!" The Faster Times. N.p., 6 Jan. 2010. Web. 7 Mar. 2010.


Charlotte, Triggs. "Tila Tequila Talks about Her Romance with Casey Johnson."

People. Time Inc., 12 Jan. 2010. Web. 8 Mar. 2010.


Ewalt, David M. "The Web Celeb 25." Forbes. LLC, 23 Jan. 2007. Web. 9

Mar. 2010. <>.

Fussell, Paul. "A Touchy Subject." Seeing & Writing 3. By Donald McQuade and Christine

McQuade. Ed. Alanya Harter. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin's, 2006. 478-482. Print.

Johnson and Johnson heiress and socialite Casey Johnson dies at age 30. N.p., 11 Jan. 2010. Web. 6 Mar. 2010.


Lee, Lisa. "Tila Takes Credit for Gay Marriage." AsianWeek [San Francisco] 20

June 2008: 15. ProQuest Newspapers. Web. 29 Mar. 2010.

<http://proquest.umi .com>.

Mediavine Inc. "Tila Tequila, Perez Hilton and Shanna Moakler Release Pro-Gay

Marriage PSA." The Hollywood Gossip. Mediavine Inc., 26 May 2009.

Web. 28 Mar. 2010.


Tila Tequila's Bizarre Behavior Caught On Camera. hollywoodtv. YouTube. N.p., 8

Jan. 2010. Web. 6 Mar. 2010.


Tequila, Tila. "Miss Tila's Bio." Tila's Hot Spot. Tila's Hot Spot, 2 Mar. 2010.

Web. 8 Mar. 2010. <>.

Tequila, Tila. Home page. 27 September 2003. Web. 7 March 2010.


Tequila, Tila. Home page. Web. 7 March 2010.


Trebay, Guy. "She’s Famous (and So Can You)." The New York Times. The New York

Times Company, 4 Nov. 2007. Web. 8 Mar. 2010.


Thursday, April 8, 2010

The Business of Survival


Image credit: Bear Grylls in a tree courtesy of Discovery Channel

Survival is
something that is instinctually hardwired into every human being, but many of the
skills associated with surviving a life-and-death situation are not intuitive
and must be learned. Consequently, some survivalists possessing these skills have
created television shows that endeavor to pass on these basic survival skills
to the average person living in the modern age, where such skills are rarely
needed and mostly unknown. One of these shows is called Man vs. Wild, hosted by a survivalist named Bear Grylls. Mr. Grylls
has long history of experiencing situations requiring the use of survival
skills, and his knowledge of these skills are invaluable to anyone facing
perils that could take their lives. He has been esteemed by many to be one of
the most skilled survivors of all time. Jokes have formed that he is the only
one who can simply walk into Mordor, which Boromir from The Lord of the Rings states is impossible. (image from many of the stunts
he performs on his show seemingly go against logical, survivalist methodology.
The risks associated with many of the activities in which Mr. Grylls engages
are unnecessary to achieve survival in an actual life-or-death situation.
Although Mr. Grylls has an extensive background that has enabled him to master
many of these survival skills, the methods that he presents on his show seem
more about entertaining an audience than actually imparting the necessary
knowledge that would enable the uninitiated to survive an extreme situation.  In fact, some of the techniques he
demonstrates could lead to perilous results that are inimical to survival. This
destroys the authenticity of the show and hurts Mr. Grylls’ credibility as a

Grylls unquestionably possesses vast experience in survival situations that has
led him to develop the survival skills he displays on the concocted adventures
through the wilderness that are depicted on his show. He served for three years
in the Special Air Services (SAS), a detachment of the British Army that
requires its recruits to undergo training as demanding as that required by the
SEAL teams of the United States Navy. But during his enlistment in the SAS, Mr.
Grylls suffered a parachute accident that broke his back in three places.  This led to his departure from the military
and left him with eighteen months of recuperation and rehabilitation. Despite
these injuries, however, he completed his recovery and in 1998, at only 23
years of age, he became the youngest person to ever climb Mount
Everest. If that were not enough, he later raced around the United Kingdom on a jet ski and crossed the
north Atlantic on an inflatable raft. To add
to his list of world records, he jumped from a plane and sat at the highest
altitude (24,500 feet) formal dinner party ever held before pulling his
parachute (Discovery Channel). Mr. Grylls has appeared on several television shows
in Great Britain
that were created for him to test his ability to survive under demanding
conditions. He has also written books describing different survival techniques
used in the wild. Finally, Mr. Grylls was recently named as the Chief Scout of
the United Kingdom Scout Association, the equivalent to the Boy Scouts in the United States
(Bear This history gives Mr. Grylls much credibility as a
survivalist because of the experience he has. Knowing this history, most would
not hesitate to listen to all the advice he has to gives. But his actions on
the show begin to eat away at this credibility. 

Much of what Mr.
Grylls does on his show certainly appeals to a sense of adventure, and he
continually tests his survival methods during these performances. But the
presentation of the survival techniques in his show does not quite fit with the
logical way he might teach these methods to a boy scout. Too much of his
extremely adventurous—and in many instances dangerous—activities invariably invades
the storyline of every episode of Man vs.
. While he may know how to survive difficult situations, Mr. Grylls is
prone to follow the extreme pattern he has set for himself in his quest to
challenge the most difficult survival situations found on this planet.  But these extreme situations are not ones
that even the most foolhardy among us would ever find ourselves in.

It seems that Mr.
Grylls concocts these extreme situations more for their entertainment value
rather than their practicality. Each of his shows begins with him entering the
environment that is the subject of that week’s show. He faces the camera with a
stern countenance and tells all about the environment he is about to enter.
Then he sets out on his journey with his backpack and survival knife in hand. But
he enters it in such a dramatic way—parachuting or repelling from a helicopter,
jumping off a speeding boat or moving vehicle—that defies reason or common
sense. (video from Youtube posted by Discovery Networks)While this might make for an exciting opening sequence, the realism of
the experience begins to fade as Mr. Grylls then takes off into the wilderness
with his trusty camera crew close on his heels. (courtesy of the photo gallery of Bear As the episode progresses, Mr.
Grylls will educate the viewer by demonstrating practical survival tips and the
employment of the different skills required to overcome obstacles one might
find in that particular type of wilderness. For example, in one early episode
of the series, Mr. Grylls strands himself in the middle of the Moab Desert
in 110-degree heat. Sweat pours down his face as he concocts an ingenious, though
disgusting, method of keeping himself from overheating by urinating on his

(clip via yahoo video, originally airing on Discovery channel) Very often he gives these helpful tips for surviving hazardous
conditions, but this is only a small part of the time. Much of the other
behavior he engages in during an episode of his show invariably becomes much
more extreme than merely soiling his wardrobe. In the first episode of the
series, Mr. Grylls strands himself in the middle of the Rocky
Mountains. During the course of the episode, he not only jumps 30
feet off a cliff into a river, but he also repels down another cliff with a
makeshift rope (Wikipedia). One can almost feel an adrenaline rush as the
action of the episode unfolds, but reality soon begins to set in. While in
extreme circumstances drastic measures may be necessary, only a person with the
advanced military training possessed by Mr. Grylls should ever attempt to do such
things to survive in the wild.  In fact,
many of the stunts Mr. Grylls performs would be considered too risky to attempt
in an actually survival situation.  Such
activities would risk catastrophic injury and make survival much less likely
than a more tempered, reasonable approach. Mr. Grylls does not always present
useful information that might help a “normal” person survive being stranded in
the wilderness.  In fact, mimicry of what
is sometimes demonstrated would cause more harm than good.  But what these activities lack in
practicality they make up for in pure entertainment value.

To be sure, it can
be exciting to see people facing life-and-death situations.  The producers of Mr. Grylls show, as well as
its advertisers, obviously believe that this attracts viewers. The common
element in each episode of Mr. Grylls’s show is danger. Yet putting oneself
into unnecessarily dangerous situations in an actual survival situation is
illogical.  Mr. Grylls is thus providing
entertainment to attract viewers as opposed to demonstrating actual survival
techniques that the average person could employ in a life-or-death situation.  

There are other programs
that are geared toward demonstrating more practical survival methods. Les
Stroud, who hosts the show Survivorman,
offers practical tips that the average person can use to overcome the adversity
of nature. In fact, many of his episodes mirror real-life survival situations. Just
like Mr. Grylls, Mr. Stroud ventured into a desert during one of his shows. But
instead of parachuting from a plane or helicopter, Mr. Stroud rents a truck and
drives as far as he can into the Kalahari Desert
before he runs out of gas—a method mimicking how most average people would
encounter a survival situation. Throughout the course of the episode, Mr.
Stroud uses everything he can scavenge from his truck, as well as anything else
he can find nearby. He also employs a survival technique that the Kalahari
Bushmen use to beat the heat: He finds shade and limits his movement—a method
that would never enter into Bear Grylls’s thinking, at least while filming an
episode of his show. Unlike Mr. Grylls, Mr. Stroud is also completely alone as
he attempts to survive in the wild. He is required to carry 50 pounds of camera
gear by himself, which undeniably makes his job of survival that much more
difficult (Science Channel). (courtesy of Without assistance from a camera crew, Mr. Stroud
does not have the luxury of taking unnecessary risks to make his trek more
exciting. His survival methods are consequently more reasonable and practical, an
obviously more desirable methodology in a real-life survival situation. What
Mr. Stroud’s show lacks in entertainment value, it provides in realism sorely
lacking on the episodes of Man vs. Wild,
with its star Mr. Grylls.

Adding to the
debate of whether Man vs. Wild is
more entertainment than a demonstration of an actual survival situation, allegations
have surfaced that some of what has been depicted in Man vs. Wild is fake.  A
former member of the crew, a survival consultant named Mark Weinert, alleged
that Mr. Grylls receives more help from his crew than what the show would
otherwise admit. Mr. Weinert said that many of the nights that Mr. Grylls
supposedly “spent in the wild” were actually spent in a motel. He also said
that some of the places where they filmed were not as remote and desolate as
the show suggested. In one instance, a supposed deserted island was actually in
Hawaii. Another
allegation is that the crew helped Mr. Grylls construct a raft that he then used
to escape one of his scenarios (BBC). Perhaps in response to this claim, at the
beginning of Mr. Grylls’s show there is now a disclaimer saying that “on
occasion” Mr. Grylls will receive aid in certain situations. The precence of his crew also helped him when he cut his finger in Vietnam. (screen capture from Bear The authenticity
of his show is questioned further through a video that revealed that one of his
“remote area” that he was surviving in was only a couple hundred yards from a
road. (clip from, originally posted on Invariably, the availability of assistance from his crew invites Mr.
Grylls to engage in more extreme stunts than he otherwise would if he were stranded
alone (Discovery Channel). The question as to how much of the show is real
makes it impossible to take some of what Mr. Grylls does seriously. While help
from his crew might make Mr. Grylls’s show more interesting to watch, it destroys
much of the show’s authenticity and also damages the credibility of the survival
techniques he demonstrates.

Authenticity is
essential to build credibility. This rule can apply to both entertainment
personalities and even companies. Pizza Hut, for example, ran hidden camera
commercials to help promote their Tuscani Pastas. The authenticity of these
commercials was challenged, and Pizza Hut proved that these commercials were
genuine. Because all the people in the commercial were sincere about their
fondness for the pastas, Pizza Hut gained credibility (USA Today). However,
when he does things that don’t go with normal survival methods and accusations
of faking Mr. Grylls loses credibility. This is because he loses the
authenticity that Pizza Hut was able to solidify. When Mr. Grylls jumps off
cliffs or air drops into an environment, the adventure seems to stray far away
from real. Accusations of faking the show also, understandably hurt
authenticity, as well. When reality begins to fade, Mr. Grylls begins to seem
less like a person to go to for survival advice. But the action on screen keeps
you hooked. This hook is the essence of entertainment that keeps people
watching the show. While Mr. Grylls loses some of his credibility as a
survivalist during the show, the entertainment value keeps people watching.

Bear Grylls has a
history that has prepared him for surviving in the most inhospitable situations
found on Earth. While he has a wealth of survival knowledge that he tries to
impart to his viewers, the practical knowledge of surviving an actual real-life
situation is hard to find among all of Mr. Grylls’s outrageous stunts. Every
episode depicts Mr. Grylls engaging in evermore extreme and dangerous
activities that makes his show seem less about survival and more about
entertainment. Mr. Stroud, on the other hand, uses his show to depict survival
techniques in a more realistic and practical manner. Although Bear Grylls may
deserve his reputation as the ultimate survivor and daredevil, the “survival” methods
he demonstrates on his show should probably not be mimicked if one intends to
survive an actual life-or-death situation.










Works Cited

the Ad Team." USA
27 July 2009. Academic Search Complete. Web. 26 Mar. 2009.

"Bear Grylls." Discovery
. N.p., 2010. Web. 2 Mar. 2010.


"Biography." Bear
. N.p., 2010. Web. 2 Mar. 2010. <http:///>.

"List of Man vs. Wild
episodes." Wikipedia. N.p., 2010. Web. 7 Mar. 2010.


"Survival show faces 'fake'
claim." BBC. N.p., 23 July 2007. Web. 7 Mar. 2010.


"Survivorman Episode
Guide." Science Channel. Discovery Communications, LLC.,

     2010. Web. 7 Mar. 2010.


Oprah's Ascendance

Oprah Winfrey

Oprah Winfrey, courtesy of

Oprah Winfrey, television tycoon,
reaches millions of people with not only her words, but also her actions. The
foundation of Oprah’s ethos is her stance in which she teaches us all how to
live a better, more fulfilling life. Her self-improvement guide, successful and
often times innovative, has made Oprah an authority and has given her the
influence that she employs today. The nation willingly trusts this influence;
but is this really a safe choice? Many will concede that time and time again
Oprah has proven herself worthy of authority. Yet others deviate and question
whether the impact Oprah has over so many Americans is really warranted. Oprah
has ascended from life below the poverty line to an astonishing wealth that
isolates her from the society over which she carries so much influence.

Newly created, “Oprah’s Great Closet
Clean-out” will go towards funding her extravagant South African Leadership
Academy for Girls. Yes, much of her old clothing, probably worn once by the
mogul, if ever at all, are up on eBAY awaiting the eager masses of Oprah
followers dying for a little piece of the superstar ( Didn’t we once
follow Oprah for what she did like, not for the items she discards?
Nevertheless, these items associate us with Oprah, and therefore, we do not ask
questions. Right?

Wrong. Oprah has become one of the
richest celebrities on the planet. In fact, this leader of the Forbes list
raked in roughly $275 million in 2009 ( With such enormous revenue
to support her profligate lifestyle, Oprah cannot possibly relate to the
everyday American that comprises her television audience and following. Even
her designer items that are being sold in an online auction, whether worn or
not, soar above middle class Americas’
price range. This seems a little odd based on Oprah’s interest in helping
Americans learn to “Save Money, Save Yourself” ( Oprah’s haughty
lifestyle is well above her television audience’s heads.

Oprah's Mansion

Oprah's Mansion, Courtesy of

One of the most popular and
buzzed-about episodes of The Oprah Winfrey
is her annual special, “Oprah’s Favorite Things”. In this episode,
Oprah picks dozens of items to display to her audience as her favorite items of
the year. She continues to give away every item on the list to her in-studio
audience and extols each item’s value. This episode portrays Oprah as extremely
generous and her endorsement helps business for many companies, but it also
displays high-priced items for high budgets only. Included on such lists is an
$800 video recorder, fashionable boots for $120, a display of watches ranging
from $150-$1500, and $60 cupcakes ( One thing that these items all
have in common: outlandish prices.  Are
these the things that her audience would normally purchase for themselves? It
is not likely. These items, unnecessary indulgences, are made attractive by the
power of Oprah’s authority and status in relation to her lower and middle class
following. Though she possesses a strong ethos, Oprah’s influencing platform
encourages consumerism, a luxury that many cannot afford in this dire economy.

"Oprah's Favorite Things" on displays an $800 Samsung Video Recorder with Oprah's face displayed on the screen, Courtesy of

“The Oprah Effect”

In fact, the significance of Oprah’s
platform is astonishing. A testament to her influence is the success of items
that she endorses on her talk show. This success has come to be known as, “The
Oprah Effect”. When Oprah appeared on her show talking about Carol’s Daughter,
a bath and body products business, excitement caused a flooding of visitors to
the business’s web site, nearly causing a crash, and sales went through the
roof. When Oprah raved about the Kindle portable reading device from
on her talk show, it took only hours for the item to sell out
( For businesses, Oprah’s endorsements have been
extraordinary, but “The Oprah Effect” applies to more than just products. Oprah
is a leader in upcoming artists, books, political figures, industries, and even
medical advice. Anything portrayed on Oprah’s bright stage in front of her logo
that permanently flashes across the screen in the background becomes buzzed
about. It has become difficult today for anyone to escape Oprah’s reach

Oprah greets celebrities

Oprah greets various celebrities at her annual luncheon for the famous, Courtesy of

Oprah’s ability to relate to others
is essential to why she has maintained such a large following. Before The Oprah Winfrey Show amassed such
massive popularity, Oprah grew up in inner-city Chicago. She has shared evidence of a rough
childhood, raped at an early age and how she struggled to gain a foothold in
the industry in her early career. Oprah was once below the poverty line and has
truly lived the African American experience, a credit to her ethos that makes
her believable and worthy. Overall, Oprah’s intentions remain dignified. After
all, very few dislike the television queen. 
Yet, Oprah, having risen to the top of the social classes, has become
too isolated from the average American to truly understand their lifestyle
today. Perhaps she is indulging in the luxuries she has come so far to enjoy.

The Implications

In a class-scared American society,
the subject of social class is often avoided or simply overlooked. The Oprah Winfrey Show, however, has a
strong undercurrent of the social classes that are undenyingly prominent in our
society. Oprah, once from a lower class, has been catapulted into the highest
realm of social class and has become the authority on advice for middle class
living. Her high status and fine tastes appear in the designer clothes that she
wears, the high price items she endorses, and the elaborate parties that she
displays on her show. Different classes may interpret Oprah’s ethos is
different ways; the lower or middle class may base Oprah’s credibility and
indulgence entirely on money and value, whereas those at the top or Oprah
herself may see her prominence as a display of taste, values, or behavior
(McQuade and McQuade 479). Perhaps the notion of social class is a hidden
aspect of The Oprah Winfrey Show that
has more influence than we know. Nevertheless, Oprah’s audience must understand
this disconnect between higher and lower classes because Oprah pushes a type of
consumerism that many cannot afford in this economy.

            The exigency
of this matter is reflected by recent years’ polls that report the numbers of
Americans that tune in to watch The Oprah
Winfrey Show
. The breakdown includes a majority of white and black female
women over the age of 50 comprising Oprah’s millions of daily viewers. Oprah’s
followers show a fairly balanced distribution across income level brackets of
$0-30k, $30-60k, $60-100k, and $100k+ ( With followers of all
income levels, it seems Oprah’s “favorite things” are somewhat unbalanced,
speaking to only those with the $100k+ salaries.  Oprah’s lower and middle class viewers must
try to find the difference between the lifestyle Oprah portrays and their own

items being flashed under “Oprah’s Favorite Things” and its ensuing “Oprah
Effect” come at an inconvenient time as many struggling Americans are bringing
home smaller paychecks. We all love the television queen and recognize her
authority in great taste and style but realizing Oprah’s consumerism is too
lofty for today’s economy is essential to the loyal viewers that tune in to The Oprah Winfrey Show every day. Perhaps viewers may need to learn to live vicariously through Winfrey, instead
of struggling to mimic her every purchase.

Oprah fans will always adore the superstar but should think twice before following her consumerism and every influence. Video courtesy of, dirtyrobby34.


Works Cited

Blakeley, Kiri. "The Most Influential Women In
Media." 14 July 2009. Web. 8 Mar.


Kreps, Daniel. "“The Oprah Effect”: Winfrey the
“Holy Grail” for Album Sales." RealNetworks Inc., 17 Nov. 2009.
Web. 8 Mar. 2010.

Martin, Crystal G. "Oprah's Great Closet
Cleanout." O, The Oprah Magazine. Harpo Productions,

Inc., 15 Feb. 2010. Web. 8 Mar. 2010.

McQuade, Donald, and Christine McQuade. Seeing & Writing 3. Boston:
Bedford/St. Martin’s,

2006. Print.

"Oprah Responds to Her Critics (sort Of)." Healthy
. Trusted.MD. 10 June 2009. Web. 8

Mar. 2010.

"" Quantcast
Corporation, Feb. 2010. Web. 8 Mar. 2010.

"Oprah's Favorite Things 2007." The Oprah
Winfrey Show
. ABC. KSAT, Chicago,
Illinois. Harpo Productions, Inc., 7 Feb.
2009. Web. 8 Mar. 2010.

Wang, Jennifer. "How to Survive the Oprah
Effect." Entrepreneur

Inc., 27
Mar. 2009. Web. 8 Mar.


Romeo Dallaire: Shake Hands With The Devil. The Failure of Humanity in Rwanda

Cover of Romeo Dallaire's Memoir

(Da Capo Press,, Praise and Reviews Section)

-Cover for Romeo Dallaire's Book

Genocide is an atrocity that redefines human capability. It can make us experience emotions that would not exist under any other circumstances. Further, it can even strip everyone involved, victims and perpetrators alike, of their humanity. “I sometimes let myself think about the evil that men wrought-how the Hutu extremists, the young men of the Interahamwe, even ordinary mothers with babies on their backs, had become so drunk with the sight and smell of blood and hysteria that they could murder their neighbours. What did they think as they were fleeing and stepping through blood-soaked killing fields and over corpses rotting into heaps of rags and bone? I rejected the picture of the genocidaires as ordinary human beings who had performed evil acts. To my mind, their crimes had made them inhuman, turned them into machines. And what of the witnesses? Had the scenes we’d waded through frayed our humanity, turned us into numbed-out machines too? Where did
we find our motivation to keep going on?” (Dallaire 457).

Shake Hands with the Devil: The Journey of Roméo Dallaire

(Peter Raymont, Shake Hands With The Devil: The Journey of Romeo Dallaire)

-Intro to Dallaire's Movie

The above memoirs are from the experiences of Romeo Dallaire, the United Nations commander in Rwanda during the 1994 Rwandan Genocide. Before his term in Rwanda, Dallaire had already achieved an image as one of the most decorated military leaders in Canadian history. He was the fastest promoted officer and had the highest troop morale levels out of all of the Canadian artillery brigades, and he was able to succeed despite the ethnic tensions of the sixties that strictly limited the capacity of French-Canadian citizens to rise through the ranks of any government-sponsored employment (Dallaire 39). However, the true test of Dallaire’s prowess as a leader was yet to come.

Dallaire at a Military Conference

(EVeritas,, Ex Cadets, Professors, and Staff in the News)

- Dallaire at military news conference

Dallaire initially responded to being offered the position of force commander in an UN peacekeeping mission to Rwanda with, “Rwanda, that’s somewhere in Africa, isn’t it?” (Dallaire 42). Almost fifteen years after his tour in Rwanda, Dallaire has become one of the most knowledgeable people alive when it comes to modern Rwandan affairs. He spent two years in the nation and headed the UN mission there, UNAMIR, operating during the course of the Rwandan genocide. After the genocide, over 800,000 people had been slaughtered and the mission had failed utterly. This catastrophe has stigmatized Dallaire since Rwanda fell into chaos. However, this public ethos of failure and incompetence, which has been spread by Western powers, has been misconceived because as his narrative in the book Shake Hands With The Devil establishes, Dallaire did everything he could to fulfill his obligations as a leader and as a humanitarian.

Ultimately, a UNPKO (United Nations Peacekeeping Operation) mandates a high level of leadership. Dallaire was thrown into a completely alien environment because he did not have the Canadian equipment he was used to and his troops were a motley bunch from a diverse group of nations such as Ghana, Belgium, and Bangladesh. UN peacekeeping troops generally have an unequal level of training and are ultimately loyal to commanders in their respective nations rather than the force commander of the UN mission. Moreover, troops can often only correspond in their native languages which creates a communications disaster when soldiers from different countries have to work in tandem. Therefore, only a leader of the highest caliber can overcome such logistical barriers.

Furthermore, a UNPKO requires humanitarianism. By the time UNAMIR had been set up, Rwanda had already been besieged by decades of brutal ethnic conflict and the human
rights violations occurring in the plagued African nation tore at the hearts of anyone who cared enough to pay attention. Romeo Dallaire couldn’t simply go into a mission designed to prevent human atrocity and “get the job done.” In order to truly bring peace to a desperate situation, Dallaire had to see and hear the plight of others: he had to push the cold, calculative military side of him into the background of his mind and act to save lives simply because it was the right thing to do. Peacekeeping requires a significant psychological investment that goes beyond the mission. If Dallaire had been just a leader who followed orders, many Rwandans would not be alive today because his UN mandate forbid him to intervene. However, Dallaire understood that humanitarianism is critical to true peace because it recognizes a common genealogical origin as humans. He recognized the inherent immorality of letting other humans suffer and pushed aside rational barriers like national interest and sovereign authority.

UN mass-grave excavation in Srebrenica

(Hasan Nuhanovic,, Under The UN Flag [Book Cover])

- UN symbolic image for Srebrenica

Nonetheless, being a good leader does entail being a humanitarian. In order to have high morale and a cohesive troop unit, one has to recognize the human aspects of the people under his/her command, and thus, being a leader is as much nurturing, as it is authoritative. In that, Dallaire managed to lead despite extreme circumstances. “Dallaire had the supreme bad luck to lead a mission to a land in which no Western country other than its former colonial master Belgium was interested. And to do it at a time when the United States and other Western governments wanted nothing to do with peacekeeping in Africa. It was also a moment when the UN was led by one of the most inept leaders in its history” (Bagnall 1). Despite these serious international restraints, Dallaire did save thousands of lives. He protected some 20,000 civilians in UN compounds who would’ve otherwise been fodder for the bloodthirsty Hutu-power gangs, the Interahamwe. He will admit to saving these lives only if directly asked, but soon returns to the regret that he did not do more (Allen 3).

What lives Dallaire did save, he credits to his troops in his memoir. “But I could not shake my fears of waking up in the morning to be told that everyone at the Mille Collines had been slaughtered during the night. I called Moigny, who had proven his worth several times already, fending off RGF soldiers, gendarmes and Interahamwe. The militias had only breached the building once, kicking down doors in search of Tutsis. But Moigny and his unarmed officers, supported by some very determined Tunisian soldiers, were able to persuade them to leave before any harm was done” (Dallaire 360). In this, we can see a tight cohesion and respect between Dallaire, his troops, and his sub-commanders.

One of the best catalysts for this cohesion is the knowledge that your commander is willing to put himself in the same danger as his troops. Dallaire did exactly that. On May 21st, 1994, during the peak of the genocide, radio RTLM, an extremist Hutu-power propaganda machine, openly exhorted its listeners to “Kill Dallaire” (Dallaire 380). Dallaire pronounced his true dedication to his troops in his reaction, immediately ordering his unarmed military observers in the field to stand down because it was clear that UN neutrality had been compromised. He understood that his troops’ association with him could be potentially dangerous for them and he acted in the interest of their security.

UN convoy at a roadblock

(Mvemba Phezo Dizolele,, Eye on Africa)

-UN convoy crossing a roadblock in Central Africa

Further, during the genocide, Dallaire could often be seen bashing his UN Landcruiser through roadblocks set up by murderous gangs. When he couldn’t make it through the tens of thousands of blockades that dotted the Maryland sized nation, he got out of his vehicle and walked the blood-soaked roads despite the omnipresence of sharpshooters and drunken hordes. Rather than issuing orders from behind a desk, Dallaire exposed himself to the same danger as his troops in order to maximize the mission’s limited effectiveness. Dallaire led to the best of his abilities and it’s a miracle he was able to save anyone given his operational restraints. The respect Dallaire gives his troops also allows us to glimpse the humanitarian side of him. Numerous times, Dallaire fell under fire and was almost killed and in that, he recognized that he is a human just like his soldiers. He treated his men, like the ones tasked with guarding the Hotel Des Mille Collins, with respect because he would expect the same of them.

However, the most striking evidence of Dallaire’s humanitarian character can be found in the way the genocide affected him long after it’s conclusion in June of 1994. “He has now done us the immeasurable service of setting out in print what price that burden exacted on his mind and his soul. In the years since Dallaire struggled desperately, first to head off, then to bear witness to the genocide in which 800,000 Rwandans were killed in 100 days, he has suffered Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and battled suicidal depression” (Bagnall 1). If it was just about the mission, Dallaire would have just moved on, but he didn’t. Dallaire clearly cares about the people he couldn’t help and he rarely admits that he saved lives, only focusing on his failure to do more (Allen 3). He now speaks for the victims of Rwanda internationally. His addresses are filled with emotionally charged questions like, “Why didn't the world react to scenes where women were held as shields so nobody could shoot back while the militia shot into the crowd? Where... boys were drugged up and turned into child soldiers, slaughtering families?...Where girls and women were systematically raped before they were killed? Babies ripped out of their stomachs? ...Why didn't the world come?” (Allen 5). From these questions, it becomes painfully apparent that Dallaire legitimately cared about the Rwandans. When he acted to save lives, he acted out of a genuine emotional and humanitarian investment in his role as force commander.

Dallaire stands by the collected skulls of victims of a church massacre

(Andrew Chung,, 5/22/09)

- Dallaire stands next to one of Rwanda's many genocide memorials

However, a small minority of international figures cast doubt on Dallaire’s image of a leader who worked to his operational capacity in the face of insurmountable barriers. Seven days after the assassination of Rwanda’s president Habyarimana, the spark that ignited the genocide, ten of Belgium’s UN peacekeepers were killed. Although the Belgium peacekeepers were being targeted because of latent colonial hatred and the knowledge that the West tended to pull out of peacekeeping missions with a couple of casualties (This was about four months after the debacle in Somalia.), Dallaire has been targeted for blame. Reports went so far as to say that Dallaire actually witnessed the death of the peacekeepers and did nothing (Thompson 1).

Belgium specifically seems to target Dallaire, and not just for the death of its soldiers: “While many Rwandans have warm feelings for the 57-year-old general as a man who did the best he could in a terrible situation, others hold him responsible for the UN's failure to save the 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus slaughtered on the orders of the Hutu extremist government. He faced specific attacks from a Belgian academic who questioned why he did not disobey orders from UN headquarters and do more to protect civilians ‘Dallaire had broad authority to act. . . . Nobody would have blamed peacekeepers if they had opened fire to preserve lives’” (Nolen 1-2).

Clearly, Belgium’s attacks on Dallaire clouds his image as a leader and humanitarian because leaders minimize their casualties and humanitarians save as many lives as possible. Belgium makes indicts of Dallaire’s fulfillment of both mandates. These attacks have implications for his overall image because Dallaire spends a great deal of time claiming that he wishes he did more instead of combating these attacks. The truth is that the mission did fail, and when 800,000 people died, the world needed someone to blame. Dallaire was the easy target because of his personal guilt and his leadership role during the genocide. In his book, he demonstrates that he is perfectly willing to accept some of this blame. “As the commander of the UN forces on the ground, it was easy for the French to imply that I had failed. Add to the horrified reaction of the swarm of people involved with NGOs who appeared within hours of danger passing and who may have been unable to deal with the emotional trauma of what they saw without finding a scapegoat. I do not blame the NGO community, nor was their criticism entirely misplaced. We could have done more. But who are ‘we’ in this case? To ears made oversensitive by self-doubt, the whispers cut like hot knives” (Dallaire 492-493). In his book, Dallaire also draws attention to his specific failures, establishing that he was unable to persuade the world to care about Rwanda and that he had no experience in modern peacekeeping or international politics (Dallaire 515).

The remains of those killed in and around a church

(Chris Simpson,, Published 3/2/99)

-Rwandan church after a massacre

However, Dallaire raises a critical point, “Who are ‘we’ in this case?”. Yes, Dallaire failed to prevent the outbreak of the genocide. Yes, this failure led to the deaths of 800,000 civilians and a civil war. Dallaire’s public ethos as a failed UN force commander is not entirely reflective of his performance in the field because, although he did fail, responsibility for this failure does not lie entirely with him. His true character is brought to light in his memoir Shake Hands With The Devil. In the book, he describes his UN mandate which was effectively a laundry list of external constraints on his authority to act like the rule which said his soldiers could not fire unless fired upon, even if it meant letting the Interahamwe massacre civilians. One of the biggest criticisms of Dallaire asks why he didn’t disobey orders. This perspective asks a legitimate question, but at the time of the genocide the decision to violate orders, especially for a military man, was incredibly complicated. It is fairly easy to make the evaluation of whether orders should have been disobeyed after the fact, after 800,000 people died, but it is another thing to make that decision in the moment when the consequences are uncertain. Moreover, Dallaire actually did defy his orders because he was told to pull out of Rwanda entirely.

Another problem Dallaire faced was a notorious lack of resources. Taking antagonistic actions that would compromise UN neutrality would have gotten every UN operative in Rwanda killed, including the Belgians, because the UN denied Dallaire everything from ammunition and transportation to office paper and clean drinking water. UNAMIR was one of the worst equipped PKOs in history. They could barely defend themselves, let alone others. One of the great ironies of the mission is that many of the nations that currently criticize Dallaire did their share to undermine the mission. Belgium in particular pulled over a thousand troops out of Rwanda ten days into the genocide which left UNAMIR with 237 soldiers (Dallaire 492-501). Although the questions nations like Belgium, France, and the U.S. ask of Dallaire are important, they would be more credible if they were asked by nations that are not searching for a scapegoat.

(Security Sweet, Lt. Gen Romeo Dallaire, Youtube)

- Dallaire on the failure of the world in Rwanda

It is crucial to look at the aura Dallaire portrays of himself in his book rather than the image distributed by his criticizers because Dallaire’s memoir outlines a larger problematic international attitude. Countries are not willing to do what it takes to save lives in nations that have no foreign value and as long as this attitude persists, UN missions will continue to fail and UN force commanders will be put into Dallaire’s position. Dallaire outlines this attitude: “As to the value of the 800,000 lives in the balance books of Washington, we received a shocking call from an American staffer. He was engaged in some sort of planning exercise and wanted to know how many Rwandans had died, how many were refugees, and how many were internally displaced. He told me that his estimates indicated that it would take the deaths of 85,000 Rwandans to justify the risking of the life of one American soldier. It was macabre, to say the least” (Dallaire 499).

(Romeo Dallaire at EWB Cgy - Are all humans - Humans?, Google Videos)

- Dallaire on the notion of casualties

The international image of Dallaire’s failure is legitimate, but it remains unimportant because it is just finger pointing. Dallaire was not incompetent. He was just another victim of the world’s apathy towards Rwanda and he really did do the best he could with what little he was provided. It is unreasonable to expect that a military operation isn’t going to have casualties. A major part of humanitarianism is that you are willing to take risks to save other people and the death of the Belgian soldiers was unfortunate, but they did not die in vain. They died honorably in the service of humanity. Dallaire’s book, Shake Hands With The Devil, is dedicated to those soldiers and the Rwandans who died. He establishes that he is haunted by those losses every day and this makes it clear that Dallaire cared about his soldiers and the Rwandan population (Dallaire 3). He would not make that dedication or feel such a way if he was apathetic to their fate. If anything, this apparent emotional investment
represents insight into Dallaire’s humanitarian side and should be somewhat redemptive of Dallaire’s ethos.

Yes, Dallaire failed utterly. The question Dallaire would have us ask is not, if he failed, but why he failed. In a statement that truly portrays an appropriate image of Romeo Dallaire as a leader and humanitarian, he closes his book with the following: “Several times in this book I have asked the question, ‘Are we all human, or are some more human than others?’ Certainly we in the developed world act in a way that suggests we believe that our lives are worth more than the lives of other citizens of the planet. An American officer felt no shame as he informed me that the lives of 800,000 Rwandans were only worth risking the lives of ten American troops; the Belgians, after losing ten soldiers, insisted that the
lives of Rwandans were not worth risking another single Belgian soldier. The only conclusion I can reach is that we are in desperate need of a transfusion of humanity. If we believe that all humans are human, then how are we going to prove it? It can only be proven through our actions. Through the dollars we are prepared to expend to improve conditions in the Third World, through the time and energy we devote to solving devastating problems like AIDS, through the lives of our soldiers, which we are prepared to sacrifice for the sake of humanity. As soldiers we have been used to moving mountains to protect our own sovereignty or risks to our way of life. In the future we must be prepared to move beyond national self-interest to spend our resources and spill our blood for humanity. We have lived through centuries of enlightenment, reason, revolution, industrialization, and globalization. No matter how idealistic the aim sounds, this new century must become the Century of Humanity, when we as human beings rise above race, creed, colour, religion, and national self-defense and put the good of humanity above the good of our own tribe. For the sake of the children and our own future” (Dallaire 522).

In honor of the victims of the Rwandan Genocide, people Romeo Dallaire worked desperately to save, I present the only piece of footage every recorded of the genocide. For the full backstory behind this record of the killings go to:

(Nick Hughes, Rwanda's Forgotten: A Record of Genocide, The Toronto Star)

Works Cited

Allen, Terry. "General Romeo Dallaire - United Nations Canada Hero." Third World Traveler, Third World, United States Foreign Policy, Alternative Media, Travel. Amnesty International, Jan. 2002. Web. 03 Mar. 2010..

Bagnall, Janet. "Dallaire's Story Is a Heartbreaker: Dallaire Inhabited an Unspeakable World for Us, WitnessedHorrors beyond Imagination and Carried a Moral Burden That No One Person Should Ever Have to Shoulder." Lexis-Nexis. The Gazette, 14 Mar. 2003.Web. 3 Mar. 2010.

Chung, Andrew. Dallaire in Rwanda. Photograph. Kibuye. The Star. The Toronto Star, 22 May 2009. Web. 02Apr. 2010. .

Dizolele, Mvemba P. UN Convoy. 2006. Photograph. Kinshasa.Dizolele. 16 June 2006. Web. 02 Apr. 2010. .

Dallaire, Roméo. Shake Hands with the Devil: the Failure of Humanity in Rwanda. New York, NY: Carroll & Graf, 2005. Print.

Lt Gen Romeo Dallaire. Perf. Romeo Dallaire. Lt Gen Romeo Dallaire. Youtube, 07 Nov. 2007. Web. 02 Apr. 2010..

Nolen, Stephanie. "Angry Dallaire Defends Actions before Citizens of Rwanda." Lexis-Nexis. 7 Apr. 2004. Web. 3 Mar.2010.

Nuhanovic, Hasan. UN Flag. 1998. Photograph. Srebrenica Genocide Blog. 2007. Web. 02 Apr. 2010. international-community.html>.

Romeo Dallaire. 2009. Photograph. EVeritas. EVeritas. Web. 02 Apr. 2010. .

Romeo Dallaire at EWB Cgy - Are All Humans - Humans? Perf. Romeo Dallaire. Google Videos. Web. 02 Apr. 2010. 510845307225279316#>.

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